Yazidis delivered from ISIS by 'Jewish Schindler'
Nearly one year ago to the day, Islamic State jihadists launched an offensive in the Sinjar region, located in the northeastern region of Iraqi Kurdistan. They defeated the Kurdish forces and captured the mountainous area, the historical birthplace of the Yazidi people.
“ISIS started attacking us on August 3rd, 2014," Peshmerga General Qasim Shesho, an ethnic Yazidi, tells i24news. "I didn’t want to believe it, and in my mind, I never thought about fleeing. I will stay even if it means dying because of it. I will stand side by side with my people and I will keep on fighting.”
The defeat galvanized the international community into intervening against ISIS, a move which has evolved into a US-led coalition that continues to conduct air strikes against the terror group.
But the harm had already been done. Hundreds of Yazidis were massacred and more than 7000 others were taken captive. The men were forced to convert to Islam or face execution. The women were forced into sexual slavery.
The mother of two young children interviewed by i24news is one of them.
For months she endured abuse by Islamic State jihadists. We met her in the Cabarto refugee camp, only a few kilometers from Mosul, in Northern Iraq.
"I was sold to three different men during this period of time. I was forced to marry one of them. With the other two, I was a sex slave. As they were raping me, they would beat up my children. After that, I got sick so they decided to sell me back to my family. "
This is how her nightmare ended: her family received the necessary money from an organization that works to free Christian and Yazidi women and children held hostage by ISIS in Iraq.
The Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq, or CYCI, was founded by Steve Maman, a Moroccan-born Canadian national of Jewish heritage. He’s already been dubbed “the Jewish Schindler".
A Kurdish Yezidi, he was there when the young woman and her two children were freed.
“We do not give them any money if we haven’t spoken with the family first," Sfean Wheed Mando, a volunteer with the CYCI team, tells i24news."Then we go to a meeting point with the family, sometimes at the Turkish or Syrian border, or sometimes we go to Denia near Mosul. Being present with the family during the exchange is part of the CYCI’s conditions. We cannot give money if we are not with them because we need to make sure that someone has actually been kidnapped. Then we film the meeting, as proof. “
The CYCI says it has saved 130 people, a number that has been questioned by some who consider the organization illegitimate, arguing it's guilty of inadvertently financing terrorism.
But that likely does not matter to all these freed women and children. For them, freedom is priceless.
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